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Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation

Julia Salmon-Allen received her second dosage on Jan. 11. Photo from Gurwin

Staff members at Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack were first in line to receive the initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in December, and they made history again 21 days later as those who received their first dose of the two-dose Pfizer BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 21 received their second at a clinic run by Walgreens at the skilled nursing facility  on Jan. 11.

The vaccine, a two-dose regimen that provides up to more than 90% resistance to the COVID-19 virus, received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA in December, and long-term care workers and residents were prioritized to receive the potentially life-saving vaccines ahead of the rest of the population.

“I received my second dose of the vaccine today, along with many of my colleagues and residents,” said Julia Salmon-Allen, a Certified Nursing Assistant at the Gurwin Center. “I have been worried about getting COVID-19 since March, and if this will protect me, my family and our residents, I’m happy to sign up.”

“I feel great physically, and also reassured knowing that this is a step forward,” said Stuart B. Almer, President and CEO of the Gurwin Healthcare System, of which the nursing and rehabilitation center is a part of. “Our community has been on edge for months, especially our family members who have not been able to visit since March. The vaccine is a positive step in the direction of bringing families back together with their loved ones.”

NYS mandates still require nursing homes to go 14 days without any positive cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents in order to allow visitation.

In addition to providing second doses, Walgreens staff also began vaccinating additional staff and residents with their initial dose. They will receive the second dose on the 1st of February.

With flu season’s arrival amid the coronavirus pandemic and public division over preventative protocols, residents and staff of the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack took matters into their own hands, launching their first-ever Public Service Announcement (PSA) educational campaign. The 45-second PSA video highlights simple everyday practices to keep illness at bay while the nation awaits the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Preventing the spread of illness in the elderly population is critical, and during the current crisis has taken on more urgency. Mitigating the flu through vaccine and personal hygiene habits has been shown to reduce sickness and hospitalization, this at a critical juncture when healthcare resources are strained due to the pandemic. Calls to “Wear a mask,” “Wash your hands” and “ Do your part” can be heard throughout Gurwin’s “Stop the Spread” video campaign from both employees throughout the 460-bed nursing home, as well as the residents themselves, who are among the most vulnerable. Social distancing and flu shot recommendations are also voiced by campaign participants.

The Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack recently announced the winners of their 27th annual Gurwin Photo Contest. Thirty winning photos were chosen from among more than 450 entries for permanent display in the 460-bed nursing and rehabilitation facility. 

Taking top prize of Best in Show this year was Jan Golden for her photo “Happy Family.” Best in Show runner up was Barbara McCahill for “Three Amigos.” Both photographers are from Stony Brook. 

In light of the times and in the interest of safety, the awards ceremony was held virtually via Zoom, and included video commentary by winning contestants. Zoom participants enjoyed a slideshow presentation of the year’s winning selections, as well as winners from past contests. 

The virtual format made it possible to have winners send in prerecorded videos of themselves, offering an inside look at the story behind their photos, their love for photography and their thoughts on what it means for their photos to be selected as winners in the Gurwin Photo Contest.

Gurwin’s renowned photo contest is much anticipated each year. The striking photos hung in the Center’s Tiffen Gallery — named for perennial contest sponsor The Tiffen Company after founder Nat Tiffen — are a signature element of the warm and welcoming environment at Gurwin. Each year, winning portraits are added to the gallery, with older photos moved to resident units for year-round enjoyment. 

More than 1000 photos now adorn the walls of the nursing and rehabilitation center and are admired daily by residents, staff and visitors alike.

Tony Lopez (Tony Lopez Photography) and Chris Appoldt (Chris Appoldt Photography) served as judges for the contest. Residents and staff members also participated in the selection process, choosing winners in the “Resident/Staff Selections” category. 

Photos not selected for display are utilized by Gurwin’s Therapeutic Recreation team as inspiration for art therapy projects, as well as for reminiscence programs for those with memory impairment, deeming every submission a “winner.”

“The community support we have received since the Contest’s inception nearly three decades ago is remarkable and serves to enhance the beauty of our Center,” said Stuart B. Almer, President and CEO of the Gurwin Healthcare System, of which the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center is a part.

“The installation of the new artwork throughout our Center is something we all look forward to, and we are particularly touched by the continued support of the community during such a challenging year,” he added.

The Gurwin Photo Contest opens each year for submissions on February 15. Information on the contest can be found at www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest/.

Best in Show

‘Happy Family’ by Jan Golden/Stony Brook

Best in Show Runner-up

‘Three Amigos’ by Barbara McCahill/Stony Brook

Action/Sports Category

Grand Prize

‘Barrel Racer’ by Frank DiBenedetto/Coram

Honorable Mention 

‘Fighter Planes Chasing Eagles’ by Jane Solomon/Old Bethpage

Altered/Enhanced Category

Grand Prize 

‘American Eagle’ by Mike DiRenzo/East Yaphank

Honorable Mention 

‘Boat Ride Around’ by Ellen Gallagher/Melville

Children’s Category

Grand Prize 

‘Sibling Love’ by Debbie Monastero/Bohemia

Honorable Mention 

‘Here I Come’ by Sarah Holmstrom/Smithtown

Landscapes Category

Grand Prize

‘Richardson Highway’ by Carol Goldstein/Setauket

Honorable Mention 

‘Napali Coastline’ by Deidre Elzer-Lento/Northport

Long Island/ NY Category

Grand Prize 

‘The Hot Dog Stand’ by Robert Guido/Huntington

Honorable Mention 

‘East End Americana’ by Dianne Booth/Bohemia

Nature Category

Grand Prize 

‘Blue and His Fish’ by Carol Goldstein/Setauket

Honorable Mention 

‘Solo Bloom’ by Jan Golden/Stony Brook

People Category

Grand Prize 

‘Torah Scribe’ by Herb Knopp/East Northport

Honorable Mention 

‘Calling It a Day’ by Tom Caruso/Smithtown

Pets Category

Grand Prize 

‘Best Friends’ by Sarah Holmstrom/Smithtown

Honorable Mention  

‘I Got Caught!’ by Deidre Elzer-Lento/Northport

Still Life Category

Grand Prize 

‘Workbench’ by Robert Oliva/Smithtown

Honorable Mention 

‘Just Hanging’ by Deborah Jahier/Huntington Station

Travel Category

Grand Prize 

‘Queenstown’ by Meghan Scherer/East Northport

Honorable Mention 

‘Three Brothers’ by Carol Milazzo-DiRenzo/East Yaphank

Wildlife Category

Grand Prize 

‘Dinner Time’ by Debbie Monastero/Bohemia

Honorable Mention 

‘Puffin Interaction’ by Bobbie Turner/Bohemia

Student Category

Grand Prize 

‘Alone in the Unknown’ by Anne Koszalka/East Williston

Honorable Mention 

‘Aspen After Dark’ by Joshua Sukoff/Huntington

Resident/Staff Selections

‘Can I Help You’ by Alan Sloyer, M.D.

‘New Mother’ by Bobbie Turner

‘Baby Kit Fox Leaving Its Den’ by Chuck Goodman

‘Facetime Surprise’ by Michael Oross

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, 68 Hauppauge Road, Commack will host a holiday-themed Festival of Lights drive-thru light display on its campus on Monday, Dec. 14 and Tuesday, Dec. 15, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The display will feature thousands of blue, gold and white lights arranged in a variety of scenes and include inflatable menorahs, dreidels and other holiday fun. Guests will be able to tune their car radio to a special FM station (107.7 FM) for a musical accompaniment to the visual experience.

“The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, and we wanted to provide some cheer and a thank you to the communities that have helped our residents and honored our healthcare heroes this year,” said Stuart B. Almer, President & CEO of Gurwin Healthcare System.

Guests are urged to brighten the season for nursing home residents by bringing donations of unwrapped gifts  including puzzle books and pens, fuzzy holiday socks and other personal gifts.

The event is made possible by the generosity of sponsors, including Ambulnz (Presenting Sponsor), Advantage Title Agency, Inc., Gensler Cona Elder Law, Huntington Hospital Northwell Health, Setton International Farms, Unidine, Austin Williams and Jackson Lewis, PC.

The display is free of charge and no reservations are needed. For more information call 631-715-2563. Posts on social media can use the hashtag #GurwinLights.

Sue and Rob Seiler (far right, back row by tree) poses with members of Gurwin assisted living staff as they receive their meals from Dix Hills Diner. Photo courtesy of Gurwin Jewish

Commack: Gurwin Jewish~Fay J. Lindner Residences staff, like employees at all senior living facilities, have been on the frontline of the battle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, a group of local community members took note and decided to treat the health care heroes at Gurwin’s assisted living facility to a pleasant and delicious surprise.

Resident family members Sue and Rob Seiler of Huntington joined with other family members to create a GoFundMe, with the goal of showing their appreciation for the dedicated Gurwin staff. After raising almost $1500, they partnered with Dix Hills Diner owners Michael Akapnitis and Peter Giannitsas to provide a delicious lunch for employees.

Seiler describes the food drop off as a win/win, showing appreciation to Gurwin staff members while giving a financial boost to the diner, also impacted by the pandemic. She says she and the others were inspired by the donations they were seeing larger healthcare facilities receive. 

“This place might be smaller than some hospitals and healthcare chains, but it’s big to me,” Seiler said about Lindner Residences, a 201- apartment community where her mom has lived since 2016. 

The effort provided nearly 100 meals for the staff. “Each and every one of our staff members are heroes, coming to work every day to take care of our residents despite the multitude of personal and family challenges they faced,” said Michael Letter, Administrator/COO of the Fay J. Lindner Residences. “We want to thank Sue, Rob, and the entire group for their generosity and thoughtfulness.”

‘Ballerina on Malecon, Cuba’ by Roni Chastain received an Honorable Mention (People Category) in last year’s contest.

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack has announced it is extending the deadline for submissions to its 27th annual photo contest to July 1 in light of the stay-at-home order that has been in place during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Garnering submissions from across the globe, the unique contest offers amateur photographers and students an opportunity to be recognized for their work, as well as the chance to make an impact on the lives of those who live at the 460-bed nursing and rehabilitation center. 

Winning photos are placed on permanent display in the Center’s Tiffen Photo Gallery for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike. 

“We understand that the many social distancing orders in place for the sake of safety may make it difficult for some contestants to capture the ideal shots they would like to submit. We are hoping to accommodate our many talented photographers by extending the submission deadline until June 15th,” said Dennine Cook, Chief Public Relations Officer at Gurwin, and creator of the renowned photo contest.

“We encourage all those participating to proceed with caution and take advantage of the warm weather!” added Cook.

Traditionally, a reception has been held at the Gurwin Center where winning photographers are presented with their cash prizes, award certificates and/or trophies. An award ceremony is anticipated to be held in the fall, with event details available at a later date.   

Applications are available at www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest/ or by calling 631-715-2575.

This article was updated on June 12 to reflect a change in the deadline date.

'The Great Migration' 2019 Best-in-Show winner by Bryan Ray Image from Gurwin Jewish

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack invites all amateur photographers, including students, to submit entries for its 27th Annual Photo Contest. Winners of the unique contest have the distinct honor of not only receiving recognition and prizes for their work, but also the privilege of helping to enhance the lives of those who live and work at Gurwin as winning photographs are permanently displayed throughout the facility.

Those selected will be invited to a reception at the Gurwin Center (TBA) where they will receive their cash prize, award certificate and/or crystal trophy. Photographers may submit up to seven printed color or black-and-white 8×10 or 8×12 photographs for a fee of $5 per entry.  Entry forms are available for download online at www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest or by calling 631-715-2568.  The deadline for submissions is April 15.

COMMACK: A ribbon cutting celebration was recently held at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center marking the grand opening of the new Option Care Infusion Therapy Suite. Option Care Enterprises, Inc., the nation’s leading provider of home and alternate site infusion therapy services, has partnered with Gurwin to provide infusion therapy in a dedicated suite within the Center’s Weinberg Pavilion.

The grand opening celebration was well attended by local legislators, Long Island hospitals representatives and other local health care providers, as well as Gurwin and Option Care staff members. “We are pleased to enter into this partnership with Option Care Enterprises,” said Stuart B. Almer, President and CEO of the Gurwin Healthcare System, of which the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center is a part. “The addition of the new Infusion Suite to Gurwin’s campus enables us to fulfill our mission of providing the best care to our residents while also meeting the needs of those living in the local community who require infusion medicines for complex and chronic conditions.”

Located adjacent to the Center’s dialysis center, the Infusion Suite specializes in IV-based therapies for anti-infectives, clinical nutrition support, immunoglobulin therapy and conditions such as chronic inflammatory disorders and bleeding disorders.   The Infusion Suite will provide residents at Gurwin and in the surrounding communities convenient access to care and exceptional clinical support that includes:

  • A full-service infusion pharmacy that compounds and dispenses medications
  • Clinical management of patients
  • Monitoring and 24/7 phone support by clinicians
  • Four private infusion stations administered by highly skilled infusion therapy nurses
  • Comfortable, specialized recliners and flat panel TVs for patient relaxation

Other amenities include assistance with patient registration, free on-site parking and easy access to facilities.   For more information, visit the Option Care website at www.optioncare.com.


‘Photography helps people see’ ~ Berenice Abbott

By Heidi Sutton

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack revealed the winners of its 26th annual Photo Contest at an award ceremony and reception on Sept. 18. The highlight of the evening was a traditional slide show of the winning selections from this and previous years. Project Assistant Phyllis Barone handed out the awards for the evening.

Sponsored by the Tiffen Company for the 13th year in a row, this year’s competition drew almost 800 entries from amateur photographers across the country. Of those submissions, 46 photos were chosen to be enlarged, framed and hung on permanent display in the nursing home. The breathtaking images will be on exhibit in the Helen and Nat Tiffen Gallery for a year and will then move up to the resident units.

The innovative event is the brainchild of Dennine W. Cook, chief public relations officer at Gurwin who came up with the initial idea in 1993 as a way of “making [Gurwin’s] bare walls worthy of a smile.”

“Your beautiful photography does more than just decorate the nursing and rehab center; it creates an ambiance that feels like home. It inspires people. It comforts people. It brings joy to people, not just our residents but our staff and visitors as well, every day,” said Cook. ”There aren’t that many things that you can do in this world that have that kind of sustaining impact.”

“This a favorite event of ours,” said President and CEO of the Gurwin Healthcare System Stuart B. Almer before thanking Cook for coming up with the contest and for “beautifying our hallways.”

This year’s winning photos are presented in a modern and stylish wooden frame provided by The Frame Center in Smithtown, as opposed to the silver metal framing of previous years, after Almer suggested the change “to enhance the photos even further.” All future contest winners will have the same frame “so the building looks nice and uniform going forward” he said.

Cook went on to speak of the profound impact these incredible images have made on residents of the 460-bed facility “to whom they mean so much.” She spoke of Debbie, a 60-year-old traumatic brain injury survivor at the facility. “She’s writing a book, she’s committed to getting back out into the world to compete in her second Iron Man. She’s feisty, she’s focused, she’s fierce, and she gets some of her inspiration from your photos on the wall.”

“This contest, although competitive and a great achievement for you as a photographer, is really about the people who get to see your work once it is chosen,” explained Cook.

The annual contest does not accept digital entries, only 8 × 10 prints, which are not returned. However, Cook was quick to assure the audience that all of the submissions will be put to good use. “[The residents] use them in art therapy as painting and drawing inspiration and in crafting classes. It’s become a great resource here at Gurwin and everyone is very grateful.”

This year’s judges, Christopher Appoldt (Christopher Appoldt Photography) and Tony Lopez (Tony Lopez Photography), were given the difficult task of choosing a grand prize winner along with honorable mentions for 12 categories as well as Best in Show, which this year was awarded to Bryan Ray from Half Moon Bay, California for “The Great Migration,” a stunning image of hundreds of wildebeest attempting to cross a river in Africa during a migration to greener pastures. Five additional photos were chosen as Resident Selections.

Added Cook, “All the selections, whether they be Honorable Mentions, Grand Prizes or Resident Selections will be judged, discussed and enjoyed by so many appreciative eyes for years to come and to me that’s the real honor — that your photos will hang for decades here in our resident’s home.”

Entries for next year’s photo contest will be accepted between Feb. 15 and April 15, 2020.



“The Great Migration” by Bryan Ray


Grand Prize

“Drive to the Net” by Elise Rubin

Honorable Mention

“Skater Boy” by Carolyn Ciarelli

Honorable Mention

“Shake It Off” by James Napoli


Grand Prize

“View from Governer’s Island” by Susan Silkowitz

Honorable Mention

“Captain America Caleb” by Deidre Elzer-Lento

Honorable Mention

“Working in the Fields” by Jan Golden

Honorable Mention

‘Unisphere After Dark” by Leon Hertzson


Grand Prize

“Serenity” by Ashley Tonno

Honorable Mention

“Four of a Kind” by Donna Crinnian

Honorable Mention

“The Friendly Forest Fairy” by Sarah Wenk


Grand Prize

“Glade Creek Grist Mill” by Mike DiRenzo

Honorable Mention

“Tufted Landscape” by Jeff Goldschmidt

Honorable Mention

“Horseshoe Falls, Niagara” by Barbara McCahill


Grand Prize

“Melville Pond” by Jeff Goldschmidt

Honorable Mention

“Croton Dam” by Ellen Dunn

Honorable Mention

“Never Forget” by Carol Milazzo-DiRenzo


Grand Prize

“Solitary” by Jo-Anne Bodkin

Honorable Mention

“Under Angel Oak” by Carol Goldstein

Honorable Mention

“From Bud to Bloom” by Meryl Lorenzo

Honorable Mention

“Night Dreams” by Carol Milazzo-DiRenzo


Grand Prize

“Balancing Act” by Alan Sloyer

Honorable Mention

“Ballerina on Malecon, Cuba” by Roni Chastain

Honorable Mention

“Waiting for Sunrise, Death Valley” by Ellen Dunn


Grand Prize

“Little Miss” by Lora Ann Batorsky

Honorable Mention 

“Callie” by Jill Fanuzzi

Honorable Mention

“What’s for Dinner?” by Dan Greenburg


Grand Prize

“Silk Threads” by Jo-Anne Bodkin

Honorable Mention

“Pink Rose” by Ellen Gallagher

Honorable Mention

“Mailbox, Italy” by Sondra Hammer

Honorable Mention

“Sunflower in Window” by William Hammer


Grand Prize

“Balloon over Bagan” by Alan Sloyer

Honorable Mention

“Starry Night in Rome” by Mike DiRenzo

Honorable Mention

“Lofoten, Norway” by Debbie Monastero

Honorable Mention

“The Dolomites” by Bobbie Turner


Grand Prize

“Snowy Flies” by Janis Hurley

Honorable Mention

“In Flight” by Adina Karp

Honorable Mention

“Mama Duck” by Carol Goldstein


Grand Prize

“The Vessel” by Alex Horowitz

Honorable Mention

“Cake Pop” by Chloe Catton

Honorable Mention

“Lost in the Green” by Stephanie Clarfield


“Cousins” by Howard Antosofsky

“Letchworth” by Rachel Perks

“Tufted Titmouse” by Michael Danielson

“Tall Ships Visit Greenport” by Barbara McCahill

“Harbor Seal” by Jacqueline Taffe

Niara Magezi and Brennan Rosenblatt were honored for their volunteerism.
Teens honored for their efforts to build a more civil society

Teen volunteers at Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center Niara Magezi (Dix Hills) of Commack High School and Brennan Rosenblatt (Melville) of Half Hollow Hills East High School were presented with the Students Building Bridges award by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island (JCRC-LI) at a ceremony held at the Gurwin Center on May 9.

The award recognizes community youth for their efforts to help create a more civil society and is part of the Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Program sponsored by the JCRC-LI and Suffolk County State Senate and Assembly Delegations.

Magezi, a junior at Commack High School, has been volunteering at Gurwin for the past three years. Her time spent with the residents and assisting staff on the nursing units has given her the opportunity to learn about the many paths in health care. She is planning for a career in the medical field, specializing in dermatology. 

Rosenblatt first came to Gurwin as a high school sophomore, befriending many residents during his weekly visits, updating them on his very active life and sharing his experiences with them.  Now a graduating senior heading to Georgia Tech to study engineering this fall, he says the time spent with his Gurwin friends is as important to him as it is to them.   

This year’s Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Program featured guest speaker and Holocaust survivor Meir Usherovitz  who recounted his life as a Jewish youth in Poland during World War II and his imprisonment in several Polish concentration camps, including the notorious Auschwitz.

Several Holocaust survivors from Gurwin Jewish–Fay J. Lindner Residences assisted living community were in attendance to meet Usherovitz and to help recognize the Gurwin volunteers and other student honorees.